Grants for research overviews

The Global Challenges Foundation is offering grants for research overviews on global catastrophic risks and the gap in global governance of such risks. We welcome applications focusing on either or both of two broad topics:

  1. Drivers of global catastrophic risks
  2. The global governance gap

The Foundation will issue up to 10 grants of € 10 000 each, the task being to write a report that provides an overview of the current research and knowledge in the area, and highlights issues in need of further research.  Reports will be utilised by the Foundation to inform future, more extensive calls for innovation and research, and may also be published as part of a new series of themed research reports. Authors may be invited to present their results at events organised or co-hosted by the Foundation.


During the past century, the world has changed drastically – in many cases for the better. In most countries, people live longer and better lives than before. The scientific and technological achievements are impressive. At the same time, this development has also led to new or amplified threats to humanity, including global climate change and other large-scale environmental degradation, as well as weapons of mass destruction. 

These risks can be classified as global catastrophic risks in the sense that they threaten human lives and well-being on a global scale. Some of them amount to existential risks, in the sense that they involve the potential extinction of humanity, or the end of human civilization.

In addition, extreme poverty and overpopulation constitute major global problems in their own right, and at the same time contribute to and aggravate other global catastrophic risks, e.g. by enhancing environmental pressures and creating conflicts and political unrest. Different global catastrophic risks and risk multipliers are often interconnected and influence each other; in this sense they constitute a global catastrophic risk complex.

Although there is no established, very precise definition of global catastrophic risks, they are characterised by having potential consequences that would be truly catastrophic - threatening the lives or well-being of a significant portion of humanity - and having global scope. They are also global in the sense that no individual state, or regional group of states, can effectively protect its citizens through unilateral action; effective mitigation requires global collaboration. 

It is also obvious that the current international system is not adequately equipped to handle global catastrophic risks in an effective and equitable manner. Although risks are global and require global solutions, the power to take and implement political decisions with implications for them remains firmly in the hands of national governments. Hence, there is a global governance gap that needs to be addressed. Strengthening and/or reforming current global governance institutions, in order to increase their capacity to address the most pressing global risks, is thus an issue of fundamental importance.

In a world of increased interdependence, global governance could include various forms of transnational collaboration, organisation and regulation to coordinate common affairs on the global level. A core mission of the Global Challenges Foundation is to promote ideas on how existing global governance institutions could be improved, and what new institutions are needed to enable adequate mitigation of global catastrophic risks.

To identify what global governance reforms are needed to properly address global catastrophic risks, and to assess proposed solutions, it is necessary to have an understanding of the drivers behind those risks. In many cases, there is scientific knowledge about the urgency of global action, and what needs to be done, but this knowledge does not translate into effective political decisions. A recent report from UNEP stresses the need for a strong and dynamic science-policy interface to support global environmental governance (United Nations Environment Programme (2017). Strengthening the Science-policy Interface: A Gap Analysis. Nairobi). In the case of global climate change, there is a systematic national reporting system for anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. However, the gap between scientific evidence and political decision making remains large. For many other types of global catastrophic risks, monitoring is less systematic and coherent, and the science-policy interface is even weaker.

The first topic of this call for applications therefore focuses on mapping the existing knowledge and research about the drivers of the most pressing global catastrophic risks, how they are interlinked and impact each other, to what extent they can be quantified – individually or jointly as a risk complex – and linked to policies, what scientific monitoring systems for specific global catastrophic risk drivers exist, and to what extent these can be generalized to other risks.

The second topic of this call focuses on analyzing the global governance gap. In order to facilitate the global governance reforms required to effectively mitigate global catastrophic risks, an adequate grasp of the strengths and weaknesses of current global governance practices is needed. Analysing the global governance gap thus includes providing an overview of how global catastrophic risks are currently governed, and identifying the major obstacles to more effective risk mitigation.

The task

Up to 10 grants of € 10 000 each will be made available, divided between the two topics, outlined above. 

Applicants who receive grants are expected to deliver a report of around 20-30 pages, providing an overview of existing knowledge and research in the field covered by the application, and pointing out areas where there are important knowledge gaps and where further research is needed.

The overviews are intended to provide background for the Foundation’s own priorities, and for the formulation of future, more extensive calls for research and innovation. Authors are free to publish their work in peer-reviewed academic journals or otherwise, but should notify the Foundation before such publication and discuss how to acknowledge the Foundation’s support, and possibly coordinate joint outreach efforts. Reports may also be published in some form by the Foundation, and authors should be prepared to present their results on events arranged or co-arranged by the Global Challenges Foundation.

Reports are due within 3 months after completing the contract and receiving the funds.

How to apply

The Foundation invites applications from academics, practitioners, and others with extensive knowledge of global catastrophic risks and/or global governance.

1) Download the application form.

2) Open and fill in with Adobe Acrobat Reader (download on

3) Send your completed application to:

Applications should include:

  • Presentation of author, including education, academic degree and affiliations (if applicable), work experience, prior relevant publications, etc, to explain why the applicant is suited for the proposed task.
  • Proposed subject and summary of the intended contents and methods to be used.
  • Motivation: why is the subject relevant? 

Deadline for applications: June 6, 2019. 

If you have any questions, please contact

Read more about the research summaries